TOULOUSE, France—Inspired by auto racing’s popular Formula E series, Air Race E plans to hold its first series of competitions in 2020 in partnership with Airbus. The competition aims to drive the development and adoption of cleaner, faster and more technologically advanced electric engines that can be applied to urban air mobility vehicles and, eventually, commercial aircraft.

Eight electric-powered airplanes will race directly against each other on a tight 3-mile circuit only 33 feet above the ground.

“We want to motivate manufacturers to showcase their technologies across the full spectrum of electric propulsion systems and components,” says Grazia Vittadini, chief technology officer at Airbus. “This partnership enables us to demonstrate our commitment to staying at the leading edge of electric propulsion and developing a new ecosystem.”

Engineers at the University of Nottingham are currently developing a prototype race airplane powered by an integrated electric motor, battery and power electronics system. The plane will help shape the model and rules for the inaugural Air Race E race in 2020.